Madrid, Spain – Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick to help Real Madrid to a 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid and restore Real's lead at the top of La Liga to four points.
A run of three draws from its last five games has allowed Barcelona to close the gap on Jose Mourinho's side, which entered the day only one point clear of its rivals.
However, Ronaldo scored on a brilliant free kick after 25 minutes to give Real the lead when he drove the ball inside the far post from 25 yards past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Atletico fought its way back into the game in the 56th minute when Adrian's left-wing cross found Falcao near the penalty spot, allowing the Colombian to turn his header past goalkeeper Iker Casillas and inside the right post.
But Ronaldo put Real on his back and carried them to the win with a knuckling shot that had Courtois flailing at air.
The two sides remained separated by a goal in the 83rd minute until Gonzalo Higuain was bundled over inside the penalty area by Atletico's Diego Godin, giving Ronaldo the chance to complete his hat trick from the spot, which he did with little trouble.
Jose Maria Callejon got in on the act in the final few minutes when Ronaldo laid off a pass for him to drive underneath the 'keeper, capping the win.
Granada 2, Athletic Bilbao 2
Granada, Spain - Athletic Bilbao rallied with two goals in the final nine minutes to snatch a 2-2 draw at Granada on Wednesday, but the visitors will be disappointed with taking just one point.
After going behind in the second minute to a goal from Jaime Romero, Bilbao gained a man advantage as Romero was sent off in the 38th minute.
The foul handed Fernando Llorente the chance to level the match from the penalty spot but he fired over the crossbar, while Granada was able to go up 2-0 with 15 minutes to go when Alexandre Geijo scored for the home side.
Llorente pulled a goal back in the 81st minute and Markel Susaeta netted the equalizer shortly before stoppage time to save Athletic's blushes.
However, the visitors have now won just once in seven games and have seen their grip on a European place slip, while Granada is unbeaten in its last three games to move eight points above the drop zone.
Sporting Gijon 3, Levante 2
Gijon, Spain - A goal from Gaston Sangoy in the 84th minute helped Sporting Gijon claim three vital points in a 3-2 win over Levante that boosts the survival hopes of the club.
Gijon had earned just one point from its previous five games and entered the final 20 minutes of the match down 2-1 after Arouna Kone broke a 1-1 tie in the 63rd for Levante.
But Sporting battled back with a 30-yard rocket from Alberto Lora to level the contest before substitute Sangoy found the bottom corner of the net with a shot from the edge of the penalty area six minutes from time.
Gijon is now four points from safety with six games to play while Levante missed a chance to move into the top four and remains two points adrift of fourth-place Malaga.
Valencia 4, Rayo Vallecano 1
Valencia, Spain - Valencia bounced back from a poor run of form to claim a 4-1 win at home over Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday, returning the hosts to third place.
A run of four league games without a win dropped Valencia to fourth, but a pair of goals from Jonas as well as strikes from Jordi Alba and Pablo Hernandez secured all three points for Los Che, moving the team two points above fourth-place Malaga.
Jonas provided the first spark a few minutes before the break with Alba adding another 20 minutes from time to put Valencia on course for the win.
Rayo responded almost instantly with a goal from Diego Costa, but Jonas converted from the penalty spot after Sofiane Feghouli was brought down inside the area.
Pablo sealed the win with his third goal of the season a few minutes from time, handing Rayo a fourth defeat in five games.